Teens help feed the hungry through Hand Up organization

By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

Rabbi Leonard Rosethal

SAN DIEGO–Toward the beginning of the Passover Seder we hold up our plate of matzah and recite: “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat!”

On Tuesday students from our Community Jewish High were blessed with the opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah. Instead of our usual classes we traveled to the Jewish Family Service office on Balboa Boulevard. We met with Shelly Hahn, coordinator of JFS Hand Up Youth Food Pantry before participating in a social action project.

We have one of its collection barrels in our lobby at Tifereth Israel Synagogue. In addition to the special food drives we run throughout the year, we also accept donations on a daily basis to feed San Diego’s hungry.

 Shelly told us that one out of seven San Diegans experiences hunger every day. Some children, for example, only eat at breakfast and lunch times on school days when they are served specially subsidized meals. The rest of the time there is little or no food in their homes. The recent economic downturn has also greatly increased the number of San Diegans who cannot feed their families.

The Hand Up Youth Food Pantry is one of the ways in which the Jewish community demonstrates its commitment to Tikun Ha-Olam, the perfection of the world. In the past year, Hand Up has provided 7,246 people with 24,657 food bags totaling more than 165,309 pounds of food to hungry people. The Pantry is primarily staffed by student volunteers who also run food drives at their schools and other public venues. 

On Tuesday our CJH students schlepped about 200 boxes of Kosher grape juice, matzah, gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, and macaroons from the food pantry stockroom to a large meeting room before forming an assembly line to place the food into bags to be handed out to needy Jews for Passover. 

I was very impressed by the speed, attention, and organizational skills of our students. In about one hour we assembled 240 bags that will be picked up or delivered before the beginning of the holiday. I was even more impressed when, after finishing early, given the choice of leaving early or doing more work, our students continued to help unload and store more food. Knowing we were helping Jews in need to celebrate Pesach was a very fulfilling experience.

Before Pesach many of our members empower me to sell their chametz to a non-Jew during the holiday. (I buy it back after Passover.) It is traditional to make a Passover donation at the same time. After the holiday these donations are gathered and sent to three organizations which help feed the hungry: the Hand Up Food Pantry, Mazon, and the American Jewish World Service.

Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego.  He may be contactged at [email protected]

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